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Jan 9, 2014

B.N.T.U. lashes out at Ministry of Education; saying it is trying to sabotage rallies

The Belize National Teachers Union that started the year with a militant tone reacted swiftly today to a release issued by the Ministry of Education. The ministry took issue with plans by the union to hold rallies beginning this Friday up north. The ministry is of the view that the rallies would disrupt classes and that in conformity with the Education Rules; the permission of the Chief Education Officer should have been sought. But before midday, the B.N.T.U. lashed back saying that there is no need to notify the ministry of any industrial action. According to National President of the B.N.T.U., Luke Palacio, the ministry’s release was not sent directly to the B.N.T.U. and that it was trying to sabotage the planned rallies.


Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.

Luke Palacio

“Our contention here is two-fold. We want to ask the question what is the intention of the ministry. If you look at this release, at the top it says for immediate release, January tenth, 2014…today is the ninth. So was it intended to be released tomorrow or they decided to fast-track it today to try and intimidate our teachers and those who are supporting this move. So we are not deterred by this release. And we need to clarify that the rule they have quoted, Rule 133 which is in this handbook of policies 2000—now this has not been amended so—I don’t know if the minister has amended it on his own that we need to now request permission for us to carry out industrial action. Our norm, the norm they speak to here as to speak with when the union requests time offs for meetings or for workshops. And it is clear that the managements or the unions or any other entity that would like for classes to suspend for a day—in fact the Rule says up to three days can be given by the Chief—that is not the case here. We are going to carry out our rallies, we are going to ensure that there is no intimidation. No scare tactic will intimidate us and keep us back because as our union song says, “When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run, there shall be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun. I have to laugh because it would seem as if though it is the union that is causing all of this rain so that the students can’t come to school. Whether B.N.T.U. was going to have a rally or not, the rains have been there. So how you come and now try to compare that? And all of a sudden, the ministry has become so sensitive to this issue. There are many times that students and teachers go to school only to find out that they have instructions that they are to report to some other place for some activity. But because the union has decided that it is going to deal with national issues that are affecting us, then now you are starting to try and blame the teachers. We the teachers take our responsibility seriously. But we cannot continue to make our students feel that all these things happening in our country is okay.  When the B.N.T.U. moves, it moves deliberately. Our membership comes to this council table and they say to us that these are the activities and the actions our members are clamoring for. So we do know that we have the support of most if not all our union members. The general public keeps on saying to us keep on doing what you are doing because it is for the benefit of the country. So we have been seeing great support as it relates to the activities that we are undertaking.

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